The Cost of Chemotherapy – Numbers You Need to Know


If you’ve watched the news or even visited a doctor’s office in the last decade, you know firsthand that the landscape of healthcare in the United States has shifted. Managing one’s health care costs used to be something we could get help from with our insurance carriers, but as prices for drugs and services continue to skyrocket, it’s unclear how much insurance will really do for us anymore.

Routine care is one thing, but what about if you have been diagnosed with a serious ailment? Cancer patients, in particular, are strapped with not only trying to heal and adhere to their treatment plans but also have to figure out how to pay for it along the way. Some of the numbers we are about to uncover might shock you a bit; if nothing else, they can help to prepare you if this challenge ever presents itself in your life.


What Does Chemotherapy Entail?

Depending on the specific type and stage of your cancer at the time of diagnosis, chemotherapy may or may not be used for treatment. If you and your doctor decide that it is something to pursue, there are a number of reasons that this treatment might be right for you.

Essentially, chemotherapy uses drugs in an attempt to kill cancer cells. There are a variety of drugs available for different types of cancers, and the process can be long and arduous. The administration of the drugs takes place in a hospital or outpatient facility and often requires patients to sit for hours at a time while the treatment is administered.

The side effects of chemotherapy are often difficult to manage, as patients face extreme exhaustion as well as nausea, diarrhea, and pain. Another issue to deal with aside from the clinical treatment is the cost – how expensive is chemo and how do you pay for it?


Getting Down To The Numbers

Costs for chemotherapy treatment vary considerably, but some national averages have been compiled to give individuals an idea of just how expensive it can be to try to fight cancer. Some studies have found that brain cancer can cost over $100,000 to treat in just the first year alone, while drugs and treatment for genitourinary cancer totals just under $9,000.

While these numbers vary widely, it’s not just the type of cancer that affects the total cost. Back in 2012, the Food and Drug Administration had 12 different cancer drugs on the market, as well as generic equivalents. Of the options available, 11 of the 12 name brand pharmaceuticals cost many thousands of dollars per treatment, leaving patients with a bill reaching close to six figures by the end of year one.

Although patients can discuss alternative drugs with their doctor, sometimes insurance carriers don’t pay the same for a generic equivalent as they do for the name brand treatment. This leaves patients in a difficult place.


How Can Patients Bring Down The Cost?

Aside from the ideal of having exceptional insurance coverage and being diagnosed with a cancer that is inexpensive to treat, what can a person do to offset the immense cost they are faced with chemotherapy?

One pattern that has been surfacing for the last several years is the difference in cost that patients experience when they are treated in an office setting versus a hospital or outpatient facility. While the drugs themselves cost the same, the overhead required to staff and maintain these various facilities factor into the cost patients pay.

Studies found that a patient who receives chemotherapy in a hospital pays, on average, 189% of the cost that a similar patient would incur if they were treated in a private doctor’s office. As the price of treatment goes up, health insurance plans must change, and the price of chemo drugs changes with it. It’s a cycle that becomes impossible to manage and tricky to get out of.


Options To Pay For Care

Patients need to realize that it’s not just cancer drugs or chemotherapy treatment that add to the cost of fighting cancer. If you have a full-time job and start to undergo chemo, how long will it be before your vacation time runs out? Let’s say your doctor’s office is a 30-mile drive from your home, and your treatments are three times per week. How do you account for the extra gas spent to get to your appointments?


Paying for Chemo with Viatical Settlements

A viatical settlement is a common option of cancer patients to pay for care. It’s really just a fancy term for selling your life insurance policy for an upfront cash value. You can then use that cash value to pay for cancer treatments. The buyer of your policy is a third-party investor, who will then pay the annual premiums and collect the policy death benefit.

You can get anywhere from 15% to 70% of your policy death benefit in cash through a viatical settlement. So for example, if selling a $1 million policy, you could get anywhere from $150,000 to $700,000 in cash upfront. Your offer really depends on how healthy you are. The less healthy you are, the more valuable your policy is to an investor.

Get an instant estimate of your policy value here.


More Payment Options

These questions are real factors that must be considered when your cancer treatment begins. Thankfully, many individuals in this country have health insurance that will cover a large portion of the treatment itself, leaving only the incidentals to be dealt with by the patient.

While it can be temporarily difficult, many cancer patients are able to utilize lines of credit to pay for their treatment, whether it be through a credit card, personal loan, or a second mortgage. Racking up debt while undergoing chemo certainly isn’t anyone’s first choice, but given the option of not paying for treatment at all, many choose to fight no matter the cost.

Patients can also turn to government programs to help pay for cancer costs, particularly if they are a veteran or of the age where they can utilize Medicare. Applying for Social Security or disability benefits might also come in useful; while this money won’t completely cover the cost of treatment, it will at least offset it a bit.


A Hope For A Cheaper Answer

It’s not fair to patients to make them choose between financial security and treatment that will save their lives, and yet countless times every single day, people are forced to make this decision. Fortunately, there are enough resources available that make chemotherapy a doable treatment for people, even if there is some financial hardship to overcome.

All we can do is continue to support those who are fighting cancer right now and offer help in any way we can. Perhaps we will see a day when choosing to save your life doesn’t cost more than most people’s homes and insurance companies will pay for a considerable amount of the expense.


About Ovid

Ovid is a life settlement exchange. We instantly match you with institutional buyers who are interested in your policy, based on you and your policy profile. Getting an offer for your policy from Ovid buyer partners is completely free. If you do want so sell your policy, Ovid has proven to help obtain average payouts above the industry average. We’re based in San Francisco and have been featured in Forbes, US News, Business Insider for the incredible work we do for consumers. You can learn more about Ovid here.